RED-BROWN POLITICS: DON'T TAKE THE BAIT!
by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate
After April's gas attack at the Syrian city of Douma, and Trump's retaliatory air-strikes, the poorly-named "anti-war" protest held in Los Angeles actually featured placards with the portrait of Bashar Assad and expressions of open support for genocidal dictator. Slogans like "Assad is protecting civilians, he is not bombing his own people."
Now, where else have we seen such open support for the dictator? At the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that saw deadly violence last August. One figure on the scene was David Duke, who proclaimed on Twitter, "Civilized world stands with Assad." Video clips from Charlottesville showed the "alt-right" mouthpiece called Baked Alaska saying to the camera with his buddies, "Assad's the man, brother! Two chemical bombs would have solved this whole ISIS business!" A sentiment less hypocritical than that of the supposed peaceniks in L.A.
Not too surprisingly, there was even overlap between the two rallies. Baked Alaska (real name Tim Gionet) appeared in a selfie-video at the anti-war march in L.A. Eventually, some marchers got wise to him and chased him off. But they do not appear to have been from the organizers of the march, the ANSWER Coalition.
There is a definite convergence underway between the anti-war left and alt-right (or fascist right to be less euphemistic) around support for Assad—part of a phenomenon termed Red-Brown politics. That is the phrase actually used by its advocates in Europe: the notion of an alliance between the left and fascism against the liberal order and the West. You do not have to be any supporter of the liberal order and the West to recognize this as an incredibly dangerous idea.
Yet it has been building for some time. After the first big chemical attack in Syria, at Ghouta in 2013 (followed by Obama’s threat of air-strikes), two prominent figures on the so-called left in the United States made junkets to Syria to express support for the regime: Cynthia McKinney, the former congress member and Green Party presidential candidate, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, leading light of the International Action Center. The IAC is one of several entities on the anti-war "left" in the US (including ANSWER) to emerge from the Workers World Party, a Stalinist sect that is now the foremost stateside purveyor of Red-Brown politics.
The next person of note to make a Syria junket, attending a confab hosted by the regime the following year, was Nick Griffin of the British National Party—the neo-fascist formation that is harnessing ugly xenophobia in the UK.
And indeed, various European "National Socialist" organizations have actually sent brigades to Syria to fight for Assad.
Then, in 2017, Tulsi Gabbard, the congress member widely admired on the anti-war left and a prominent figure in Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, made her trip to Syria—actually meeting with Assad. Her delegation included adherents of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, an openly fascist-inspired satellite of Assad's ruling Ba'ath Party. Interestingly, after Trump's victory in 2016, Gabbard was among those to meet with the president-elect at the Trump Tower. (Also making the pilgrimage to the Tower during that period was French far-right politician Marine Le Pen.)
The 2016 US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein echoed a similar line on Syria, and her running mate Ajamu Baraka is an open Assad supporter. After the dictator's thoroughly controlled pseudo-elections that confirmed his rule in 2014, Baraka hailed this as a repudiation of the West, crowing about Assad's "support" among the Syrian people, and how the opposition was "fomented" by the "gangster states of NATO." Stein herself, in an interview later scrubbed from the Internet, referred to the Ghouta chemical attack as a “false flag.”
An incipient Red-Brown alliance is converging on the global stage. One of the key figures calling for such an alliance in explicit terms is Alexander Dugin, a Russo-nationalist ideologue and political guru to Vladimir Putin—sometimes called "Putin's Rasputin." Dugin is consciously bringing together supposed anti-war figures in the West with neo-fascists around supporting despots like Putin and Assad in the name of a "multi-polar" world. He calls for both sides to "put aside anti-Communist, as well as anti-fascist, prejudices," which are "the instruments in the hands of liberals and globalists with which they keep their enemies divided."
In one telling episode, December 2014 saw an international Duginist conference in Moscow on the "Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multi-Polar World," bringing together various Euro-fascist formations. Participants included a delegation of American "leftists," representing the IAC and United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). Both these entities are ultimately spawn of Workers World. UNAC is a recent effort to reunite the IAC and other organizations in the Workers World orbit with ANSWER, now in the orbit of a splinter group with the highly ironic name of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. And also in attendance at the Moscow confab was... a delegation of white nationalists from the neo-Confederate League of the South!
So these same entities which purport to stand up to the alt-right and white nationalists at home were happy to sit down and schmooze with them in Moscow.
This also recalls Jill Stein's December 2015 junket to Moscow for a conference hosted by Kremlin media mouthpiece RT, in which she supped with Putin and Mike Flynn—then candidate Trump’s military policy advisor and later President Trump's arch-reactionary National Security Advisor. This soirée, by the way, took place amid Putin's savage bombardment of Aleppo—about which Stein, in her pacifist homilies delivered at the gig, had not one word to say.
And this same tendency can now be seen entering mainstream discourse. Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson engaged in the same kind of speculation that the Assad regime wasn't behind the Douma chemical attack that we also heard from supposedly left-wing journalist Robert Fisk. For spewing this denialism about the attack, Carlson, a figure of the right, was praised by Jimmy Dore, a popular video commentator of the supposed left.
Also featured as guests on Tucker Carlson in recent months have been such figures of the supposed left as Glen Greenwald and Stephen Cohen. This latter is a star of The Nation magazine, and now the foremost voice for the Kremlin position in US media. He has, in fact, turned The Nation into a vehicle for lying Russian propaganda.
The Nation featured Cohen in an online audio interview in August 2016—in the midst of the massive Assad-Putin bombardment and siege of Aleppo—with the introductory text reading: "Putin needs a decision by Obama now as the crucial battle for Aleppo intensifies... Putin seems resolved to end the Islamic State's occupation of Syria, Aleppo being a strategic site, without or with US cooperation, which he would prefer to have."
This was an outright lie. ISIS was not in control of Aleppo. Rebel forces either affiliated with the Free Syrian Army or independent were in control of Aleppo. ISIS had tried a year before that to establish a foothold in Aleppo—and was driven out by the rebel forces. The same rebel forces that Moscow and Damascus were savagely bombing as Cohen wrote those words! A complete reversal of reality. But the Assad-Putin propaganda strategy has always been to cynically conflate all rebel forces with ISIS. The Nation played right along.
Even if we put aside this blatant untruth, Cohen's very terms for the debate constituted an apologia for massive war crimes—the bombardment of a civil population because there happened to be rebels in their midst. Precisely the logic that Nixon and Kissinger used in Vietnam.
Anti-war and anti-fascist forces in the West are in grave danger of being co-opted by warmongers and fascists. It is imperative that we do not take this toxic bait. As anarchists, it is our job to organize independent of the self-appointed anti-war leadership, and to work to build an alternative. An anarchist alternative would be ruthlessly single-standard in its opposition to war—which means saying no to Assad and Putin as well as Trump, and offering solidarity to the anti-authoritarian currents in the Syrian Revolution. Not betraying them by acquiescing with their oppressors.
This story first appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of the anarchist journal Fifth Estate.
Photo of April 14 ANSWER protest in Los Angeles by Joseph Daher, via Facebook.
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Reprinted by CounterVortex, July 24, 2018